Bam! Thwak! Pow! Diverse superheroes are giving old stereotypes a beating.
As comic book and graphic novel sales in North America cracked one billion dollars in 2015, nontraditional characters—racial and cultural minorities, women, LGBT figures—are becoming major players. Some heroes in this inclusive pantheon are new. But well-known characters and brands are also getting a makeover: Marvel now has a black Spider-Man and a female Thor; Archie Comics’ multiracial character Harper is disabled; DC’s Wonder Woman recently officiated at a lesbian wedding.
Industry analyst Milton Griepp says once marginalized groups started appearing regularly in mainstream comics about 10 years ago. The rise of manga, with its heavily female readership, and the recent superhero films of Hollywood have been catalysts for the change, he says. So have shifts in popular culture, laws, and demographics, and the ubiquity of the Internet.